National Ag Day: Celebrate Agriculture

National Ag Day LogoHave you heard? Today is National Ag Day! To be absolutely honest, had you asked me five years ago I would’ve had no idea that such a holiday (yes, it qualifies as a holiday) even existed. We’ve all heard of the usual National Popcorn Day (1/19), National Watermelon Day (8/3), National Cow Appreciation Day (7/15) and so forth (ok, so maybe not everybody regularly celebrates these holidays). But, did you know that today is dedicated to recognizing those men and women whom work tirelessly, day in and day out, to produce the food, fuel, and fiber that we as consumers all too often take for granted?

Just a few years ago I had the opportunity to take part in the official National Ag Day festivities in the heart of it all, Washington DC. Being the agricultural policy nerd that I am, let’s just say I was on cloud nine to be in the capital city, surround by other young people that shared my deep passion for agriculture. This year I am continuing that tradition, while in DSM (that’s short for Des Moines for all you non-Iowans) instead of DC, I will be proudly representing and advocating for an industry that I believe is one of the greatest assets to our well-being as a nation. I think Samuel Johnson said it best…

“Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own." - Samuel Johnson

“Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.” – Samuel Johnson

So today we “Celebrate Agriculture”…  displaying our gratitude and continued support for those who have dedicated their lives to tending the soil, being caretakers to their herds, and supporting our rural communities.

The Secret To Success

Yesterday evening Drake Law School welcomed back one of its most successful alumni, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. With the opportunity to hear from the state’s head of command, and a fellow advocate for agriculture, I just couldn’t pass it up.

Governor Branstad

Governor Branstad

The Governor shared with us some of the trials and triumphs he has experienced along the path from small-town farmboy to Governor of the great of Iowa. If you are from Iowa then you’re likely familiar with the strong supporter that the Governor has been for the agriculture industry in particular. However, not only is he an advocate for Iowa agriculture, but also prides himself on standing up for agricultural production nationwide.

When asked how his farm background has impacted his professional career, the Governor shared how valuable the skills and work ethic he learned on his family farm growing up has helped him to be a better representative for the people of Iowa. He shared that during his two tenures as Governor he has seen some of the worst (i.e. the Farm Crisis of the 1980s) and some of the best (i.e. current) of times for agriculture. With the continued investment and innovation in Iowa (especially with developments in biofuels and wind energy), he believes that we will continue to be an agricultural leader.

At the conclusion of his presentation the Governor shared his “secret to success,” which from someone who holds the title as the state’s youngest elected Governor and the state’s longest serving Governor, I think his advice comes with quite a bit of credibility!

If you want to be successful, you can’t do everything. Focus on the things that are important!

- Governor Terry Branstad

So You Went To Cuba…

If you follow me on some of my other social media outlets, then you likely already have heard that recently I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Cuba. For those of you just joining in, you heard that right, I (an American citizen) traveled to Cuba. Knowing the “taboo” (for lack of a better word) that surrounds the nation of Cuba, I thought I would share with you over a couple of different posts about my experiences there, and would welcome/encourage any additional questions that you may have!

For the sake of structure, I thought I’d start by answering some of the most common questions I’ve been asked about my trip since I’ve been home. Once again I would shout out to you as readers to post any questions you have in the comments section below. Here we go…

Q: So you went to Cuba… What in the world took you there?

As you may know, I’m currently a second year law student at Drake University, and have been fortunate to be part of the leading Agricultural Law program in the nation. Last year our law school pioneered a relationship between our Ag Law program and a Cuban equivalent program. This relationship paved the way for the development of a class within the Drake curriculum, in which we compared/contrasted the American agricultural infrastructure vs. the Cuban system. Part of the class included this 7-day trip to the country, to see it all first-hand.

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Q: Wait, I didn’t think Americans could go to Cuba. How did you get around that?

Yes, there are a large amount of travel restrictions between the US and Cuba… mostly due to the fact that we continue to have an embargo against them. However, over the past few years, current the current Obama administration, we have seen some of these restrictions “lightened” (meaning they are still there, just less rigid). Our group worked closely with a travel agency that helped set-up our travel visas and necessary paperwork to get into, and back out of, the country. We traveled under a very specific visa, which was granted solely for educational purposes.

Q: What all did you get to see while you were there?

As I mentioned before, the basis and overall theme for the trip was evaluating their agricultural infrastructure and legal system. We visited some urban gardens that were pioneering different organic production practices, learned about how their marketed their commodities from a local co-op, and discussed the similarities and differences between our agricultural law systems with some of their country’s industry leaders.  With that being said, we also took the opportunity to learn about their culture and history while we were there as well.

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Q: So overall, how was the trip? Would you go back?

I must admit, it was hard for this tech-savy, email-addicted girl to sort of fall off the grid for a week, but I really enjoyed the experience (I mean who wouldn’t want to short vacation from the frigid Iowa winter). I will confess that while I personally do not agree with many components of their political structure, it certainly was interesting and eye-opening to see how they make it work. Having traveled to a number of different countries in the past, I can honestly say that I came back from this trip more grateful than ever for the lifestyle I am able to enjoy here in the US. Now, would I go back…. maybe someday, but for right now I’m going to enjoy the good ol’ US of A.